Whether you’re a traveler visiting the Black Hills for vacation, or a local looking for an exciting adventure, an excursion with Black Hills Adventure Tours is the perfect way to find hidden gems and explore the scenic Black Hills.
I was lucky enough to spend my day with Carrie Gerlach, founder and owner of Black Hills Adventure Tours, to get an inside peek at what a day with their guides is like and what you can experience on their tours.
Black Hills Adventure Tours offers an immersive experience like no other. From kayaking and paddle boarding, to scenic drives through the Badlands, Black Hills Adventure Tours offers tours for people of all ages, and skill levels. Whether you want to relax and see the sites, or get up close with nature, their guides are knowledgeable about the area and will show you hidden gems off the beaten path.
At the start of the day I was picked up by my tour guide Carrie at the location of my choosing. Black Hills Adventure Tours will pick you up almost anywhere, so if you’re visiting the area and don’t have a vehicle you don’t have to worry about finding transportation. In addition to flexible pickup locations, Black Hills Adventure Tour guides come prepared with everything you could need for your expedition. From snacks, to water bottles, sunscreen, and all the appropriate permits, Black Hills Adventure Tours handles all the logistics so all you have to do is enjoy the scenery!
Our expedition took us to the northern part of the Black Hills, an area that is less traveled, but does not disappoint when it comes to scenic locations you’ll never forget. As a Rapid City local, I thought I was well versed in the hikes, trails, and history of the area. But after spending the afternoon with Carrie, I realized I still had lots to learn!
Our adventure started at the Rock Maze, located a short distance out Nemo Road. This would be a perfect hike for someone looking for something quick and easy. Despite its easy climb, this hike doesn’t disappoint! Large sandstone and granite boulders lean in all directions creating natural tunnels for you to explore. You can climb on top of these boulders for a gorgeous view of the rolling pines covering the Black Hills. Rock Maze would be the perfect place for a quick nature break and a fabulous spot to pack a picnic.
After the Rock Maze we headed further down Nemo Road, with Carrie’s adorable dog Buster hanging out the window. Carrie informed me she was taking me to one of her favorite hang out spots in the Northern Hills, Little Elk Creek. Located near Dalton Lake, this seven mile route follows the creek and depending which end you start on, will finish at the scenic Dalton Lake. The trail is fairly level, covered in beautiful shade and foliage, and allows many areas for you to take a break and play in the creek. As someone who grew up in the area I can’t believe I had never heard of this untouched gem!
After our second hike, we decided to stop for lunch at the Sturgis Brewing Company. I enjoyed a delicious plate of wings, and an ice cold cider while we sat on the patio and chatted. One of the most enjoyable things of this tour was the wealth of knowledge Carrie and her guides have of the area. She told me about the humble beginnings of the Sturgis Rally, and how the Buffalo Chip got started. Spending the day with Carrie was like reading through a history book on the Black Hills of South Dakota…except a lot more fun.
After lunch we headed to the historic town of Deadwood to hike the Friendship Tower. In 1919 Deadwood Sheriff Bullock built the Friendship Tower as a dedication to President Theodore Roosevelt. The hike is just 2.5 miles from Deadwood and the tower is only a mile from the trailhead. The views from the Friendship Tower are incredible! From the top of the tower you are able to see Sturgis, Spearfish, Crow Peak, and Bear Butte!
After our last hike of the day, we drove through Deadwood so Carrie could impart more of her wisdom about the town’s unique architecture before heading back to town. Between the years 1908 and 1940 Sears and other big box stores sold pre-fabricated home kits. People would shop in a catalog, order their home, and it would be delivered to them to be assembled. Carrie showed me two original catalog homes located in Deadwood, South Dakota. Catalog homes aren’t the only unique architecture you can find in Deadwood. During the Gold Rush, mines used Cyanide to make slurry that extracted gold from the rocks, and instead of wasting the lids to the cyanide barrels, they were repurposed as shingles. There are a few different homes in Deadwood that still have their original roofs made from Cyanide barrels!
After our brief architecture lesson we took one final pit stop at Chubby Chipmunk to indulge in some luxurious truffles before making the drive back to Rapid City. Overall, the day spent with Carrie at Black Hills Adventure Tours was beautiful, educational, and an adventure I’ll never forget!
If you are visiting the area for the first time, or a local looking to add some new spots to your roster, book an adventure with Carrie and her team. They take care of all the planning and logistics so all you have to do is enjoy the journey.